Thursday, October 30, 2014

La Motilla de Azuer

Look Ma! I'm learning!

On Wednesday I went on a field trip! I went with about 50 students to an archaeological site about 15 minutes away from the school. It would be akin to a class going to Sunwatch Indian Village in Dayton, except for the fact that Sunwatch was built around 1050 A.D. and La Motilla was in use during the Bronze age from 2200-1500 B.C., which makes it almost 3,000 years older...

I haven't seen any regular school buses here in Spain, but if students needed transported they use charter buses usually. So we took a charter bus and our driver seemed to me to be the most talented and fearless bus driver in the world. I have no idea how he navigated the tiny streets of Daimiel where my school is, or did a 3 point turn around a roundabout while getting within inches of buildings and other cars. I was a little afraid for my life, but the adventure continued as we turned off on an UNMARKED DIRT ROAD to get to the site. I don't know how you would visit if you were just a tourist on your own because there's no signage for it until you get there. We squeezed through a small gate and we had made it.

We split in to two groups and we had a tour guide for each. The tour was of course in Spanish, so I understood different information based on how far away I was standing from the guide and how well I could hear her. When I got home I looked it up too so I could fill in my gaps. 

Here's a couple articles that describe the fortification:

Outside of the 50m wide fortification was a small settlement for about 100 people which extended to a 50m radius from the walls. La Motilla has the oldest known well on the Iberian Peninsula! There is also a necropolis/burial ground area within the settlement. Those buried there were found in the fetal position, and from what I got from the tour guide was supposed to signify the person returning to the comfort of the womb of Mother Earth (or something like that...). The walls were of course to protect the people and their water, provide a space for them to process different crops, produce pottery and other artifacts, and sometimes keep livestock. They ate lots of different kinds of animals, including dogs and horses! (eek)

Here's the well: 

The different colors show how high the water was at one point. 

This was really interesting, but again it's hard to wrap my mind around how old it really is!

Here's a cool video that shows you the whole thing. 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gaudí, Bó de B, Barcelona

I had quite the experience on my trip to Barcelona this weekend!

It began with a Thursday evening Ave from Ciudad Real where I live to Madrid. The Ave is the high speed train that has routes all across Spain and can travel up to around 300 km/hr or 186 mph. I took the hour long train ride all alone and it was exhilarating. This was my first big excursion during this Spain experience and to feel confident enough in my Spanish and in my travel savvy to know I could get where I needed to go was so exciting. It's only been three weeks and my confidence in myself and my ability to do what needs to be done has skyrocketed. After a little bit of a search I found the restaurant in the train station where I was meeting Katie and 3 of the other girls from my program, and then we headed off on the metro to the other station where we would catch our overnight train.

A travel lesson was learned this night: if you book an overnight train, be sure to book a BED on the overnight train or you will be attempting to sleep for 8 hours in the position that you see Katie demonstrating below. It could have been worse and it could have been better - I have the whole first Harry Potter Audiobook in Spanish on my iPod so I turned that on and tried to get comfortable. The lights stayed on all night so I felt like I woke up every five minutes, but on Friday I felt pretty good considering the situation.

We got in to Barcelona at around 7:30 a.m., met up with the 6th member of our group, and found our way to The Generator Hostel to store our luggage and change our clothes. On the way to the metro we got coffee and some random Barcelona citizen walked right up to our friend Mackenzie, smacked her coffee cup out of her hand and gave her the finger for no reason!! It was pretty shocking so early in the morning. Unfortunately this was not our only encounter with rude people in Barcelona. Then we began our weekend of walking! We probably walked at least 5 miles each day I'm guessing? My calves have been killing me this week. This market called La Boqueria on Las Ramblas (a huge pedestrian street) was simply amazing.    

There were stalls as far as you could see, filled with any kind of food you could imagine. There were fruits and vegetables and seafood that I couldn't even tell you the names of and the smells were constantly changing at every turn. Here's the website: But it was hard to resist trying a little bit of everything. The 6 of us got a few different things to try and it was all so tasty. I had an empanada with chorizo sausage in it and most of the girls got a fresh fruit juice drink. We also had an encounter with a not so nice vendor in the market. We were standing and looking at one of the stalls and this woman pretty much screams at us to move out of her way as she was walking from one stall to the one we were looking at. We weren't doing anything wrong and she could have gone around us or said, "Excuse me." Then she proceeded to cuss us out and give us the finger from her stall after we gave her a funny look. Caroline took it upon herself to talk back to her a bit, which we appreciated, but man our blood pressure shot right up. 

While we were walking around we had a couple more instances of people being rude. They would hear us speaking English (talking about how amazed we were about whatever we were looking at) and say something snarky. One guy said, "Oh my GOD!" really loud in accented English as he walked by us, and I just didn't appreciate it. We weren't bothering anyone and we were appreciating the culture and history of the city we were visiting. It's that injustice feeling in your gut that has you wanting to chase him down and yell, "You don't even know me!!" 

But that's not how I'll remember Barcelona. Luckily, the culture and history there can speak for itself and doesn't need it's citizens to tell me how amazing and beautiful it is. We randomly stopped in the Basilica de la Mare de Deu de la Merce which was an incredible, 18th century, baroque style basilica. It's named for the patron of Barcelona, The Lady of Thanks, I think it would be; I really liked the St, Michael altar area. 

We did a lot more walking and wanted to get a sandwich at this supposedly phenomenal restaurant called Bo de B (Bocadillo de Barcelona) that someone recommended to us, but it hadn't opened yet so we got some vegetable paella that was pretty great. They we returned to the hostel to check in, shower, and get ready for the evening. This hostel was pretty swanky. Our beds were so comfortable, we had a bathroom all to ourselves, we could rent towels, and they had a bar with a drink special just for us! Needless to say we took advantage of that, and happened to meet the British blokes that were checking in at the same time we were. 

The next morning we all got various breakfast foods and drinks to try and recharge from the night. One of the best things I learned the last time I was in Spain, is that a couple loaves of bread and a package of Philadelphia cream cheese is the perfect breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner. It's better than a toasted bagel with cream cheese or toast with jelly; it just hits the spot and it's easy to share. 

We walked to La Sagrada Familia and waited in line for our tickets, but our entry time was until 2:45 so we took a stroll for a couple of hours through a lovely park and this great arch. We went back to Bo de B to eat but the line was too long and we would have missed our entry into La Sagrada Familia had we waited. So alas, Bo de B had to wait. 

And then finally we got back to La Sagrada Familia. This is one of my favorite places in the world. Even though I saw it last time I was in Spain, my jaw still dropped when I walked inside. It's unlike anything else in the world, and has been named a World Heritage Site. It's been under construction since 1882 is not slated to be completed until 2026 which is the 100th anniversary of Antoni Gaudi's (the architect's) death. I encourage you to check out the Wikipedia for this place to learn more and see more photos, because mine don't do it justice! Every square inch of it incorporates symbolism and stories from Christ's life, inspiration from nature, and architectural genius that will remain for centuries.  

The Nativity Facade 

After an exhilarating and quick hour in La Sagrada Familia we headed up to Park Guell, another one of Guadi's masterpieces. Unfortunately they have started charging 8 euros to see the monuments, so we only got to walk the trails around it. We went up as high as we could go in the park and were rewarded with a magnificent view of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

After days of talking about it, we FINALLY made it to Bo de B. Third time's the charm and boy was it worth the wait. I ordered a chicken sandwich and got a full sized BAGUETTE loaded with freshly grilled chicken, fresh vegetables, about 6 kinds of sauces, and feta cheese and it was great. Some of the other girls got chicken tzatziki  which is pictured below and boy were there were a lot of feelings. I think it tasted extra amazing because of all the time we had waited and looked forward to it. 

Megan was a champ and almost ate it all! 

After that 3 of the girls went back to the hostel and 3 of us stayed in the main plaza for a while playing cards, enjoying the weather, and chatting. It was a calm and relaxing night for sure. The next morning Katie and Mackenzie left at around 8:30, and so the 4 of us remaining walked more. We went inside the Cathedral of Barcelona which was stunning of course. They were having Mass so we couldn't walk through the entire thing, but I kind of wish we had planned on going to Mass. Oh well. Another city, in another cathedral for sure. Caroline and Ellis left next at around noon, so Megan and I continued our stroll. This time we went down along the water and along the beach! It was strange to see people at the beach so far into October, but the weather was beautiful and we sat at a beach restaurant for lunch. The stories about the nudity at beaches in Spain is true - I not only saw some topless ladies, but also a fully nude older lady just hanging out (pun intended)!

Our final adventure was the walk back to the hostel. On the way we had to use the bathroom, and for some reason bathrooms are a little elusive in the streets of small shops. Plus if you want to use them, shop owners want you to buy something of course - if you don't, rudeness ensues. But we took our chances on an Irish pub, ignored the signs that said in 3 languages "Toilets are for customers only," and through the bar, past the bartender and down the stairs. Not getting yelled at on the way out was almost the crowning achievement of Barcelona weekend for Megan and I. 

Then it was time to collect our things and head to the train station. I took an Ave back to Ciudad Real (by myself again!) and it was very nice. The seats are more comfortable than a plane and they played the movie Saving Mr. Banks in Spanish which I was able to understand and enjoy! It was only a 3 hour and 45 minute trip which was much better than the 8 hour one. 

Here's my first souvenir! I love bears and I love Spain and this handmade necklace from a street market in Barcelona will be the perfect mix of the two! 

Barcelona was more expensive than I thought so I think I need to slow down my weekend trips a bit. Living and learning over here and I'm doing alright.


Whirlwind Weekend

Last weekend was super busy and on Sunday I opted to upload lots of pictures to Facebook instead of working on a post, so here we go!

Wednesday night, Fatima and I went out for a drink with her friend Sara because one of the bars had a special: big mugs of beer and a mini sandwich for 1 euro! We ended up at one of Fatima's favorite discotecas (pretty much a bar/club with dancing), which is called Sion Abbey Pub and it was a lot of fun! 

Then on Thursday we went out for tapas with a few more of Fatima's friends at a bar in the main square of Ciudad Real. Her friend is pregnant and due in a few weeks so that was very exciting! 

After that Fatima, Sara, and I met up with a few more people at Prestige, another discoteca. We knew someone who got us in for cheap and with some free drinks and my new pal Alvaro was there too! We ended up going back to Sion afterwards too. The nights here last much longer than what I'm used to going out in the US; getting home at 3:00 a.m. is an early night and 5:00 a.m. has been the average for Thursday - Saturday. Luckily I don't have to work on Fridays and can catch up on some sleep. 

On Friday we went to a birthday dinner for Fatima's friend Pilar. There were 12 of us in her apartment and she and her boyfriend had prepared quite the spread for us. Pinchos (meat skewers), tortilla, empanada, chorizo, crab pouf things, etc. After that we went back to Sion! It's apparently the best bar in C.R. 

On Saturday we went back to Calzada for another birthday party. This one was out in the country - like drive on a dirt road for 20 minutes kind of country. We got there at around 6 and the girls were playing a game they had invented for the birthday girl. She had to find words in a giant word search and then do tasks that had to do with those words. For example, for one she had to line all the guests up in age order, and and then another was to take a selfie with the whole party! Then some of the girls had prepared a choreographed dance for the birthday girl and so they performed that for us; it was super cute and well done. We then had TWO kinds of birthday cake and everyone started dancing on the porch. I feel like everyone in Spain knows how to instinctively dance incredibly well; even the goofiest guys had some moves. And this group of people love Flamenco music and so they were all singing it too! I have some videos on my YouTube channel of them if you want to check them out. 

View from the porch at the birthday party

The dancing and singing went on for a while and I did my best, but then they wanted me to sing American songs for them! 1. I can't sing. 2. Singing in public in front of strangers is like my worst nightmare. 3. I was still pretty sick from what I think was a sinus infection. So all of this made me very sweaty and red in the face, but I busted out a few stanzas of Thrift Shop which I think they appreciated. Then when they wanted me to sing I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston, I screeched out a few lines with some of the other girls and then took my seat. How embarrassing. Oh well. After that we had meat from the grill and more dancing. We ended up staying until around 1:30 a.m. and then went to the disco back in town for a little while. Another late night. I'm shocked that I recovered from whatever sickness I had. 

Birthday party guests! 

The next day Fatima, and her friends Carmelo and another Fatima, and I went to El Sacro Convento Castillo de Calatrava la Nueva which is a castle and convent near Calzada! It's a 13th century construction and was like a small town. There are streets where artisans and vendors would work and sell their goods, a few fields for livestock, a church, a cemetery, and various levels for living spaces. The higher up in the fortification you go, the nicer the accommodations; for instance peasants lived in the lowest, then the priests and knights, and then the royalty. The fortress sits on top of a huge hill, I think it's about half a mile straight up, and the narrow, spiral, rocky road that leads up to it is about 1.5 miles. The view of the surrounding county is incredible and it didn't look real to me, more like a panoramic painting. There's not much that compares to it, that I have ever seen. We don't have very much in the United States that is as old as the castles and monuments here and it's hard to wrap my mind around how long ago things were actually built. I'm amazed at the 200-250 year old monuments we have in Washington D.C. and so being here is just mind-boggling sometimes. One of the teachers in my school was saying that there are so many castles in Spain that many of them fall into disrepair because the government can't afford to maintain them, especially because of the crisis/recession. Crazy. 


After the castle, we went to a nearby restaurant where Fatima and her family go once a week during the summer. She knows the owner and several people who work there, so we stopped in to have a coffee! The owner was very nice and gave me my coffee for free! It was a beautiful day at a beautiful restaurant. Here's the website for it:

Finally this post is finished, over a week later! I'll be posting about my trip to Barcelona next so stay tuned! 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mis Alumnos!

I haven't really talked much about my school or what I'm doing there yet so here it goes! 

My school is called Ojos del Guadiana and it's located in Daimiel, Spain, which is a smaller town about a half an hour from where I live now in Ciudad Real. This means I carpool to school every day (well, Monday-Thursday when I work) with other teachers who live in Ciudad Real. I've been getting picked up and dropped off by different teachers in different locations everyday so I've gotten to know my neighborhood and some of the other teachers a little bit better. 

I only have 12 hours scheduled to work during the week and that includes 3 hours of 1 on 1 Spanish lessons for me. That means during my break times I'm in the teacher's lounge preparing a presentation, working on Spanish, or talking to the other teachers. Many of them want to practice English with me which I think is great and I'm super happy to do. My school is a bilingual school so not only are English classes being taught, but regular subjects like Math and Technology (Woodworking?) are being taught in English. It's really impressive, but also has some difficult aspects when the teachers aren't native English speakers. I'm looking forward to sitting in on these classes and seeing how they really work. 

The Spanish education system is a bit different from the US's. In my public school we have ages from around 11-18 years old. So it's basically middle school through high school, 7th-12th grade I think. And here the 11th-12th grade is called "bachillerato," and it's optional; you go through bachillerato if you plan on going on to college but if you plan on going into another line of work or technical college you skip it. Anyways, I've been in class with just about all of the levels to introduce myself, and I made a powerpoint to explain how high school works in the United States. They all want to know if it's like the movies, a la High School Musical! 

The younger kids have in general been a little more talkative; they have a bit more confidence with their English skills and are less embarrassed to speak for the most part. The youngest ones you couldn't get to be quiet which was so fun. They had all these questions written out like, "Do you prefer spending time with friends or sleeping?" "Do you prefer The United States or Spain?" It was super cute. They don't have clubs or sports teams at their school and so they were interested in what I participated in. 

Today I met a new class and they even decorated for me!! So nice. As you can see, America is all about football, basketball, baseball, cowboys, hamburgers, and hotdogs! After my powerpoint I've been showing them the Carroll High School Lip Dub video from my alma mater so they can see what high school looks like in the US, and they seem to enjoy it! 

I've already gone on a field trip with one of the classes to the local museum! I think they're in 8th or 9th grade?? They did mini presentations on some of the exhibits in the museum in English! I learned about the famous sculptor/painter, D'Opazo and the architect who designed their school and several other important buildings, Fisac. 

And here they are! 

I'm still figuring out my role in the classes, but so far it's been great. It's interesting to share things about America that I never used to think twice about, for instance that we have cafeterias in schools that serve lunch everyday. At this school they have a "canteen" with drinks and snacks if you want, but almost everyone waits to eat until after school at around 3. I'm sure I'll have lots more updates about my time in school.